Working Paper No. 1176

The Educated Underdog Becomes the Ultimate Superstar

Published: June 22, 2017Pages: 47Keywords: Superstar; Skill formation; Expertise; Relative age effect; Football; Elite educationJEL-codes: D10; I20; J70; M50; Z20

The Educated Underdog Becomes the Ultimate Superstar Per Hjertstrand, Pehr-Johan Norbäck and Lars Persson


We fi…nd an inverted relation between a player'’s birthday and the likelihood of receiving the Ballon d'’Or (awarded to the best football player in the world). We develop a multi-period skill formation model with selection into elite education.

We show that those born late (underdogs) need to work harder to be selected for elite educational programs. However, those born too late will not make the cut-off. Those born late –– but not too late –– will thus end up with the highest skill levels as adults (educated underdogs).

We use detailed data on the performance of elite Swedish football players to illustrate our model. These data provide strong support for the predictions of the model.

Per Hjertstrand

Contact

Ph: +46 8 665 4557
per.hjertstrand@ifn.se

Pehr-Johan Norbäck

Contact

Ph: +46 8 665 4522
Mob: +46 73 574 3379
pehr-johan.norback@if...

Lars Persson

Contact

Ph: +46 8 665 4504
lars.persson@ifn.se

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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